Chicago based DJ D Jones brings the club experience to luxury events with a specialty in corporate events, high end private events and weddings. He has taken the time to chat with us about how he has gotten started, how he has kept afloat during the pandemic and what the future brings for his business.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I was an aspiring DJ that would buy equipment, never practice and sell equipment only to buy more equipment that I never practiced on for many years. I didn't start taking DJing seriously until 2008. Music is a lifelong passion of mine. My mother had an eclectic taste in music and I grew up listening to everything from soul, jazz, rock to early hip hop and electronic music. So I definitely credit my mother with helping to develop my love and ear for music.
What makes you decide to play a particular record during one of your sets? Is there a criteria other than pure subjectivity, for selecting what to play at a gig?
Playing the right song at the right time is all about understanding people and timing. I love to watch the room from the moment the first guest walks in, until the end of the night. If I feel like the guests in the room are there to vibe and have great conversations with friends they haven't seen in a while, I like to play music that just feels good and compliments the moment, but as the night progresses and a few drinks have been enjoyed, I like to move people more towards a party vibe that I think will work for them given their tastes in music. At the end of the day, being a good DJ is about understanding who you are playing for and what they are ultimately at an event to do.
How have you maintained DJing during the pandemic?
I reduced all non-essential business expenses, and maintained a presence on social media and relevant sites where clients typically find us at. I also live streamed during the first 8-10 months pretty regularly on Twitch. Throughout the pandemic I also made sure that I delivered the same great personalized service to existing and future clients that I always have.
How did you get into DJing for private events?
Frustrated by the club environment and lack of earning potential at them, I shifted my focus to upscale private events in 2012. By changing my marketing and creating branding that connected with clients that I actually wanted to work for, I was able to gradually shift into a market that a lot of DJs overlook. I also invested in equipment so that I could not only service events for clients as a DJ, but I could also service all of their audio needs for an event.
The relationship with the audience is crucial for a DJ, and yet it seems to be a fragile one. How do you see the balance between giving the crowd what they want and treating them to something new?
This is a hard task. Clients hire me to play the hits— remixes to popular songs get met with resistance. I do find that if I want to introduce new music, I'll do it later in my sets after I have gained the confidence of the people in the room. I also like to blend familiar tracks with new music so guests are getting a familiar sound with a touch of something new.
DJs that just press play on their laptop may have given technology a bad name, but without technology, there'd be no DJing in the first place. What's your perspective on the relationship and the balance between technological advances, music and the art of DJing? How have particular technologies changed your style of DJing?
I embrace technology in the DJ field. Just because a DJ has all of the latest and greatest equipment doesn't mean that they can rock a party. Technology has lowered the bar for entry into the craft but song selection, transitions and timing is what makes a DJ great. No equipment can help with those three elements. What technology has done is allowed great DJs to be even greater. We now can carry thousands of songs to any event, quick mix if needed for hours on end and ultimately provide a more musically diverse experience than ever before.
What would you be doing right now, if it wasn’t for your music career?
Besides enjoying a regular sleeping schedule, I would most likely be a professional bird watcher, lol...
If you could DJ for any celebrity who would it be?
I would love to DJ for Jay Z & Beyonce at an intimate private event where I'm just in the room creating those black excellence vibes.
What advice would you give anyone who would like to get into the DJ business?
Invest in yourself both financially and with your time. Identify your target audience and market yourself with a purpose.